Our movements through the world feel controlled. We choose to move our feet as we pace them one in front of the other, we choose our direction of travel as we navigate the streets. This inherent control conceals what we cannot control – which is everything else. Call it fate or coincidence, the world around us is hapless and unexpected.
The steets of this capital city, just shy of a year ago were an unfamiliar terrain of silence. There was no one to press the traffic light button and wait agitated; no car to step in front of and offer a perfunctory apologetic wave. It was a concrete abyss. The dynamics of power were thwarted as we, the cities occupants rested in hibernation, waiting to re-emerge once more. We valued this stillness as inimical, enamouring the feeling of negotiating our pathways amidst the hubbub of traffic and bodies.
These man-made environments, emptied of man-made sounds roused a certain sense of nostalgia for noises that once antagonized our senses. No sirens, no voices, no blaring horns. Dog walkers ambled further and further away from one another, pavements grew larger under government authority as molten concrete unfurled further across the floor, in search of new footsteps. The architecture, permanently resolute stood alone. Hallowed window displays existed rather than living, a delusional West End wearied by its empty seats; the lights of Piccadilly Circus illuminating the streets, vacated from faces.
Through the disturbed tranquility, the sonorous sounds of the city waited with bated breath through the metropolis and our waning synaesthesia to be rehabilitated once more.
A new chorus treads the city now, with hunger to see and do more. As we navigate these streets that feel new somehow, we move along through the passage of time making unique choices. We turn left, or we turn right. We move forwards or turn backwards. These decisions are ours and ours alone, but all the while, the cinder blocks that surround us remain still. These moments of motion and placidity thrive in their juxtaposition until we cannot distinguish the two.
“Photographs help people to take possession of space in which they are insecure,” quipped Susan Sontag in the seminal collection of essays On Photography (1977). This delicate snapshots in time occupy the role of a control mechanism that we exert on the world; our experience of it and how others perceive it. At the cost of our physical absence, we have been forced to face the “insecurity” head first and discover our existence is as fundamental as the motionless skyscraper that encloses us. Through the lens of London-based photographer, Elinor Blair, this series captures a moment of movement we “control” while the world around us stays still, and so visually we invert the dynamics of power and surrender ourselves as equal to our surroundings.